Letter to My Body - By Emily Kielthy
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Check out Emily's Blog: Call Us Kill Joys
I’m sorry. I was wrong.
Those are words that I have never said to any boyfriend, my mother, or any of my old teachers – each of which I have offended in unique ways. But towards you, body, I behaved the most despicably.
I’m sorry for not allowing you to change. You grew up (and out, as my mother used to tell you), and yet I remained the same. I wanted you to stay the same with me. I wanted us both to be 15 forever, and never have to be adults. I’m sorry that I starved you as punishment for growing into a beautiful young woman. Because you see, body, I understand now. We need to move onward and develop into the next phase of our lives. We need to create new patterns, and not everyone will be ok with that.
I’m sorry that I didn’t appreciate you. You gave me so many gifts – you were fully functional, and beautiful. And yet I berated you. In a gang of girls all those years ago, I stood in front of mirrors and insulted you. Yes, you were fine – you would do – but I always expected more, naively thinking that perfection was even achievable. I told you that you were fat, unworthy and unable to live up to my standards. I’m sorry that I hurt you on purpose, to show you what pain was – to show you how you made me feel inside.
I’m sorry that I didn’t stand up for you, body. When you were young and innocent, playful still, and my father told you that you were fat, when you were in a teen modelling contest and the judges told you that you were short, when my dance teacher told you that you needed to bend more than you could, when my mother spoke poorly of you behind your back and when an ex-boyfriend of mine told me that you’d look better with a tan. I’m sorry that I agreed with these people, instead of being in touch with you, and loving you.
I’m sorry that when you were just a teen, and the doctor told you that you were underweight, that I was proud of you. I’m sorry that I didn’t care for you more to think about your health. I’m sorry that I had aspirational visions of you with your bones exposed, like I could peel you back to almost nothing. I’m sorry that I compared you to those pictures online of those bodies, and that I wanted them instead of you.
I’m sorry, body, that I believed the nuns in my Catholic school, when they told me that you could only be valued if I kept you pure. I’m sorry that I let them stick tape to my arms and pull it off, again and again until you had none of your soft arm hair left, just to show that the tape – when used too much – was dirty and ruined. I’m sorry that I listened to that lesson, and that I thought your inherent worth could ever be taken away from us by me giving you to someone else.
But, body, I am so proud of you. I’m proud that when I took up cycling and weight lifting as a hobby, that you exceeded all of my expectations and made me marvel at what we could do. I’m proud that I can now feel muscles move that I didn’t even know I had. I’m proud that you danced your heart out, despite that instructor telling you that you couldn’t. I’m proud that you now eat three meals a day and have no idea what calories you consume. I’m proud of your resilience, for sticking with me through all of the hate.
I’m proud of both of us for ignoring everybody when they tell us that you’re not good enough and I’m proud of how great we feel when I stand up for you, and mean it. I’m proud us for knowing that you will never be perfect, and for knowing that that’s what makes you you. I’m proud of all of this positivity, that we worked so hard to achieve.